Red Tape Nightmares

Well, I’ve breathed life back into this blog, but I really haven’t updated much yet. Of course, a portion of this is due to the fact that I’ve still got some time in the United States. Most of what I’ve been doing has just been taking care of personal stuff and seeing friends before I leave. I’ve actually been on a couple cool adventures, which will be the subject of some new posts, but I thought I’d got back in time and talk about a couple events that have occurred through this process. 

For this post, I’ll be discussing my visa paperwork and the insane amount of red tape that surrounded it. For those interested in pursuing a teaching job in Korea, they require an E-2 Visa (unless they’re of Korea decent, which is another issue all together). For the visa, one need:

1 Appostilled copy of a College Degree

1 Appostilled FBI background check

4 (or so) Passport sized photos

1 Health Statement

1 Copy of the front page of your passport

1 Copy of the Resume that landed you the job

Some of these documents are easy to obtain. So much so I hardly need mention them. As for the others…Well… Let’s continue after the break. 

As for the passport photos, there is a number of places you can get those. The health statement is a simple document that will be provided by your employer. It basically asks if you have any dangerous diseases, AIDS, HIV, or something like that, and then a checkbox for yes or no. Copying your passport and resume are also both easy. It’s the first two documents that are a pain.

For the first part of this story, we’ll fly back in time to the day before veterans’ day, 2011. This is when I began gathering my visa requirements and when I first ended up talking to school. For the FBI background, I had to drive to the local sheriff’s office for fingerprinting, and then I sent off the document request. I requested that the document be notarized. 

I also went to either Office Depot or Staples, one of those office stores, and had them photo copy my college degree. I made extras, just in case. I also had them resize the document to a manageable size. I went to my bank, showed them the diploma and copy and had them notarize the document as a certified true copy. Then I headed to the County Clerk. Thus far, there are a number of steps, but nothing particularly arduous. Well, as soon as I reached the County Clerk, things changed. Turns out the notary public who place the seal on my certified copy left out her middle initial. That made my document invalid. So I went back to the bank. That notary had left for lunch, so I took a lunch break too. But when I returned, she had been in a car wreck on her way back to work. I went ahead and got a new notary to simply notarize the left side of the paper. And then back to the Clerk.

Initially, the County Clerk said she didn’t know if she could certify a document with a valid and invalid notary, but after checking with some other people, she discovered she could. Now the document was ready to send to the state secretary for appostille.

Then, we wait. About a week later, my certified true copy diploma arrived with the gold seal of the State Secretary and it was good to go. Then I had to wait longer. Much longer.

And thus begins the second stage. My FBI background check arrived a little more than one week ago. It took that long for processing. I was initially planning to send my FBI check to the state secretary by mail, but I decided against that, since the school that hired me was getting a little antsy. So I drove to the state capital in Nashville. Which is about a three hour drive for me. 

After some trials with finding parking downtown, I made it to the Tennessee Tower, where I climbed up to the business documents office and I waited for the attendant of the desk to return from a coffee break. My FBI document bore the raised seal of the FBI, the signature of the director of the FBI and a date. I thought that was surely a good notarization. It wasn’t. I was informed that because the document wasn’t certified and notarized by a notary public, it could not be appostilled.

“But what about this FBI seal? Isn’t this a federal notarization?” I protest.

“I can’t verify FBI signatures because I’m unfamiliar with them. It must be a Tennessee state notary.” She says.

I sigh and hang my head. After a three hour drive, I’m really not in the mood for this crap. She gives me a sheet of paper with directions to the nearest county clerk’s office and tells me I need to go there. And then she says one more thing.

“This is for South Korea right? They’re on of the only places that needs the Apostille. They really don’t do right by people trying to immigrate there.”

I nodded politely and then walked away, but that statement really pissed me off. All the stuff I’ve done on the Korean side has been painless so far. It isn’t Korea’s fault that a federal notarization means nothing on a state level. Now, I may change my tune when I’m dealing with Korean paperwork, but right now, all my problems are stemming from having to jump through hoops with American paperwork. 

After a bit of getting lost in an unfamiliar city, I made it to the County Clerk. I steeled myself, thinking it would only take a second. I went straight to the notary desk.

“I need this document certified so I can have it apostilled,” I say, “It has a federal seal and signature and everything,”

“I’m sorry, sir,” She says, “I can’t do anything with a federal seal, so you’ll need a local notarization,” 

So it was official. My federal seal wasn’t worth anything. I sigh.

“Fine. I don’t really care anymore. Just, let’s notarize it and then certify that. This is the notary department, surely someone is registered notary public,” I shake my head.

“No. No one in this department is a notary,” she says. I look at her incredulously.

“Seriously? No one in the notary department is a notary? Well, this is government building, surely someone here is a notary,” I say

“Oh yes. Go to the front of the building and ask for [this guy]” she says.

So I walk back up there. I tell them I need a document notarized. The woman there interrupts me and tells me I need to go to the notary department. I tell her that I was sent from that department looking for [this guy]. She points to his office and tells me he will be back in a couple minutes.

An hour passes. 

Finally, a man in a suit shows up. He says, “I’m sorry but [that guy] is in meeting all day. What do you need?”

“I just need a notary public to stamp this. So that I can have it certified. I drove three hours to get here, I’m tired, and what I need really isn’t that difficult” 

“Oh, I’m not a notary myself, you need the notary department,” he says cheerfully, “follow me”

I grind my teeth. Maybe if I have him turned away from the notary department, he’ll realize how incredibly fucking stupid this whole thing is. We reach the desk.

“Oh, I can certify your document now, sir,” the woman says.

“It still isn’t notarized,” I say, mildly annoyed. 

“[That guy] isn’t in his office. Don’t you have a notary over here?” asks the suited man. The woman hesitates, then knocks on the door behind her. A man comes out. 

“What do you need?” He asks.

“This man needs a notary,” she says. I clinch my teeth together. If there was a notary IN THE OFFICE BEHIND HER the entire time, why was I sent to the front building? I had be polite to her, despite my growing anger and frustration. She could have saved me an hour. The man comes over and looks at my document. He frowns.

“This is a federal document. With a federal seal. It’s kind of above my head. What do you need me for. Hell, where do I even notarize it?” He looks at the document confused.

“I don’t care. I was send her from the secritary of state’s office who refused to apostille the document without certification. I got here and that woman over there won’t certify it without notarization. So now I need you to get the ball rolling for me,” I say.

“This is retarded,” he says, “My signature doesn’t make this document more valid. It already has a Federal seal. I can’t imagine that you can produce a raised seal like this, so it must be from the feds,” He says.

“Look. This whole thing has been insanely stupid. I’ve been running in circles here. Just stamp it in a corner and I can be on my way,” I say. I then recount part of my journey while he shakes his head. 

With his notary, the woman was able to certify it. Next I returned to the tower. I make it to the desk. I show her the document. 

“Alright, I’ll take care of that for you. It will be 2 dollars,” she says.

“Fine. I expected that,” I pull the money from my wallet.

“Oh, I can’t accept that here. Go to the 7th floor, pay for it there, then return with a receipt,” 

I groan. When I return, I get the document and leave. Originally, I wanted to hang around Nashville for the day to make the drive worth it, but after that run around, i didn’t care. I just wanted to get as far from Nashville as possible. But with that, all my documentation was finished. 

The moral of this story is:

A) That if you plan to leave the country and you need an FBI check, it will take two months, so request is as soon as you can

B) No matter how simple it seems, all government paperwork will require roughly ten times the work you expect.

C) No matter how cool they look, Federal seals and signatures don’t mean anything to anyone.

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~ by James on January 17, 2012.

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